Understanding Amazon

Monday, July 16, 2012

Amazon started as an internet bookseller in 1994. Today, it sells everything from clothes to diapers -- and has revolutionized the e-reader market with the Kindle. Financial Times reporter Barney Jopson talks about how the company has evolved and how it's responded to increasing scrutiny.


Barney Jopson

Comments [17]


I just bought a new CD from a third party vendor on Amazon for $3.98. Amazon was offering it for $15.00.

Also, if you live in a state (as I do) where Amazon has to charge sales tax, you save tax by buying the same product from a third party vendor on Amazon who is not required to collect that sales tax (so long as buying it at the price the third party vendor is selling it at is cheaper than buying it from Amazon with the tax).

Jul. 16 2012 12:59 PM
Eve from NJ

Also fairly recently there was a guest, I think on Leonard's show, who wrote an article (?) about moonlighting in one of Amazon's warehouses. The article told how the workers are abused as far as pay and conditions, etc. The writer did say, however, that all sellers have the same system now. Something's gotta give with these types of practices.

Jul. 16 2012 12:44 PM
Ana from Summit, NJ

What I don't like about ereaders (I read on my iphone) is that I can't lend a book. I don't mean passing it around to 20 people but sharing it with my daugther, for example, is not possible.

Jul. 16 2012 12:41 PM
Amy from Manhattan

The other end of the waste of paper issue is whether Amazon's boxes are made of recycled cardboard.

Jul. 16 2012 12:41 PM

Commercial service bureaus offering remote computer time, or computational services, have existed nearly from the beginning of commercial computing. Fulfillment services have been around for years too. Amazon's cloud services are distinguished by their huge size, their connections with other lines of business and their public visibility. However, the basic concept is not new or unusual.

Considering regulating Amazon and others providing similar services raises some difficult questions about defining who gets regulated and who doesn't. For example, where would payroll companies fit in?

Jul. 16 2012 12:40 PM
Eve from NJ

It's best never to put all your eggs in one basket, and the Nook, by Barnes & Noble, is a better reader anyway.

Jul. 16 2012 12:40 PM
Laura from Manhattan

About being stuck with Kindle devices, there are Kindle apps that can be downloaded to other devices (Apple and Android) to access Kindle ebooks. Same for the Nook books from Barnes and Noble.

Jul. 16 2012 12:40 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I used to work for a retailer that sold on Amazon, among other sites, so I am familiar with Amazon's paradigm. They have ironclad contracts with their vendors that are produced by some bigtime attorneys, and if you want to sell through them and they want to be able to poach your product, they will write that into their contract and you take it or leave it.

I don't much care for them, except as a product search engine, and also because they do keep their vendors' shipping costs reasonable. I've found that many vendors, in an effort to undersell competitors, lower their prices to a tad below cost and jack up shipping and handling costs, but Amazon pretty much stomps on that approach.

Jul. 16 2012 12:38 PM
metabolic from BK

There is a Kindle app on Itunes.
You can buy and read Kindle books on apple devices

Jul. 16 2012 12:37 PM
Joan Friedman

It is not correct to say that you can only read an Amazon ebook on a kindle. You can get a free kindle app on an ipad or a droid device and read the kindle books there.

Jul. 16 2012 12:37 PM
Joel from Nyack

You can read Kindle books on an iPad if you download the Kindle app for iPad.

Jul. 16 2012 12:36 PM
Paul Bolotovsky from New York

Amazon has made it possible for small companies to compete nationally without national distribution. As purveyors of the Nightclub Dance Series, a DVD business that teaches those with two left feet how to dance socially, Amazon has provided a fair commission structure, a built in customer base, and international reach. We couldn't have done as well as have without Amazon...

Jul. 16 2012 12:36 PM
Brian from Hoboken

As an NJ resident, I don't see the trade off of same day delivery vs having to pay sales tax soon as worthwhile. I will mostly cease using Amazon for any large purchases if I have to pay 7% sales tax. Essentially Gov Christie has created a few warehouse jobs in NJ on the backs of NJ consumers.
I think that many other people here in NJ feel the same way.
Lastly, same day delivery is not necessary to win business. It is nice ( often delivers same day to my home) but it is not a feature that will attract much sales.

Jul. 16 2012 12:26 PM
Lisa from Forest Hills, NY

Is Amazon doing anything to try to minimize the boxes they use? I love amazon and buy many things from them. But they waste lots of boxes and shipping material. Perhaps reusable shipping containers? Could be a whole new industry.

Jul. 16 2012 12:24 PM

My understanding was Amazon did collect tax (built into the price) but didn't pay it to the states.

Jul. 16 2012 12:24 PM
John from NYC

The author Ann Patchett has another opinion of Amazon. Here is a link to an article from the Christian Science Monitor. I tend to see her point of view of this entity. I'd rather pay a higher price and support a local bookstore than this warehouse company.

Jul. 16 2012 12:22 PM
John A

Compare Amazon and eBay? Much of what eBay has been doing is to play catch-up with Amazon. (Personally I'm happy both of them are here.)

Jul. 16 2012 12:13 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.